Parshas Vayeira

November 2, 2012
17 Cheshvan, 5773

Candle-lighting Time: 5:39 PM

This edition of Sparks of Torah is dedicated in honor of Ari Wasserman’s 3rd Birthday and Upsherin Ceremony when we will cut Ari’s hair for the very first time and he will put on his first yarmulka!!!! Mazel Tov!


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Home Team

by Rabbi Raphael Leban

A few years ago, if you recall, the Rockies made it to the World Series. During that brief but exciting period, I was asked to make numerous blessings on their behalf during the Torah reading, the tune of ‘Take me out the ballgame’ replaced the more traditional melodies for Adon Olam at the end of services and one bride I know was even asked to change her wedding plans so as not to coincide with one of the games. Apparently we take our Rockies pretty seriously in this town.

Do you feel a tremendous sense of support for ‘them.’ By them I mean the Boston Red Sox. It’s been a long time. Can’t you feel happy for them? They were historic World Series champs. Could a self-respecting Denverite root for them, too?

Not so easy. But such is the stuff of greatness.

In Parshas Vayeira, G-d tells Avraham about His intended destruction of the inhabitants of Sodom. The Talmud describes the city of Sodom as a place where being hospitable was illegal. The term midas Sodom—having the character of a Sodomite—means refusing to allow someone to have something nice, even though it wouldn’t cost a cent. They weren’t such a great ball club, if you know what I mean.

Nonetheless, when Avraham hears G-d’s plan, he ‘goes to bat’ for them, beseeching G-d to spare their lives with such fervor that he has to ask forgiveness several times during the conversation for fear of asking too strongly.

Think about it for a moment. As the Michtav M’Eliyahu points out, the Sodomites lived in direct contradiction to everything that Avraham believed in. He was the epitome of chessed, kindness, and they epitomized selfishness. He lived to welcome guests into his home, they outlawed such behavior. His life was dedicated to teaching people about the greatness of G-d, their lives were a constant source of disgrace of G-d’s name.

And yet, despite all this, he prayed on their behalf, begging G-d to spare them and allow them to live. Now that’s chessed, the kind of selfless concern for other people’s welfare that made Avraham what he was. He didn’t simply express an interest in like-minded folks, trying to see his own principles furthered by their behavior. Avraham held all other people so dear that no matter what mistaken ideas they believed in, he wanted the best for them.

You may not go out and root for the Red Sox, certainly not in public, but at least take a moment to imagine the greatness of our forefather and role-model Avraham, whose love for his fellow man and desire to do chessed was so great that he could even ask G-d to spare the people of Sodom.

Am I Really That Sick

by Rabbi Dovid Nussbaum

Avraham is nearly one hundred years old when he fulfills Hashem’s word and circumcises himself. Although this is done at risk to his health, nonetheless in order to perform the mitzvah, Avraham is willing to endanger himself. On the third day after his circumcision, Hashem comes and visits Avraham. Certainly we admire Avraham’s greatness that Hashem visits him and inquires about his welfare. However, there is one nagging question that needs to be addressed. Hashem has made many promises to Avraham and certainly they are contingent upon Avraham’s continued service of Hashem with the same passion and loyalty as he has demonstrated in the past. He has been assured and guaranteed that he will have children, inherit the Land of Israel, the Temple will be eventually built there, why is there a special visit made upon this occasion?

Indeed, Sforno understands Hashem’s appearance here in a totally different mode. He explains that Hashem revealed Himself in order to complete the covenant between Himself and Avraham. Since the circumcision exhibited the fundamental nature of their covenant, therefore this was the appropriate milieu for Hashem to come. This would certainly appear not to concur with the Talmud’s interpretation that Hashem came to visit Avraham because the procedure of the circumcision had perhaps weakened his health.

Ohr HaChaim notes that the verse does not state that Hashem appeared to him, rather it initially stresses that ‘unto him Hashem appeared’. He infers from the structure of the verse that Hashem revealed Himself in full glory, with His entirely of splendor and brilliance. The Torah wants us to realize that the cause for this unusual display of Hashem’s grandeur was due to Avraham’s greatness and therefore he deserved this special honor accorded to him.

Based upon this insight, we may conclude that both meanings are inclusive in this incident. Truly Hashem came to visit Avraham because he was enfeebled due to the circumcision. However, the emphasis here is not only Hashem’s appearance, rather on the scope of Hashem’s magnitude demonstrated at this time. The underlying theme may well be the fact that this revelation concluded the covenant between Hashem and Avraham as Sforno points out.

What remains to glean from the parsha is why does the mitzvah of circumcision rank so notably in creating the venue for this inimitable and extraordinary revelation? Furthermore, why did Hashem select circumcision as that particular mitzvah first presented to Avraham as opposed to any of the other hundreds of mitzvos?

Rashi, in the previous parsha, refers to circumcision as a covenant of love between Hashem and Avraham. What is so specific to this mitzvah that it espouses such an intimate relationship between Hashem and Avraham and his descendants, the Jewish people? Perhaps we may suggest that ‘wearing’ one’s circumcision is akin to a badge that professes and asserts our unmitigated and unadulterated passion that we possess to listen to the Torah with total dedication and commitment.

The final upshot is that although Hashem did not appear specifically to tend to Avraham in his state of weakness due to the circumcision, however, it was the circumcision itself that led to Hashem’s revelation. Often it is not only what we do, but rather how we perform Hashem’s mitzvah that truly counts!

Question for the Rabbis
By Rabbi Mordechai Becher, reprinted with permission from

Rashi explains that G-d appeared to Abraham, who was recuperating from circumcision, in order to “visit the sick.”  Rabbi Moshe Feinstein was asked if it is possible to fulfill the mitzvah of visiting the sick (bikur cholim) by telephone. He notes that there are three components to this mitzvah: praying for the patient; attending to his needs; encouraging him and lifting his spirits. Fulfilling any one of these is a fulfillment of the mitzvah, and if one is not able to visit in person, a phone call can certainly accomplish some, if not all, of the goals of visiting the sick (Igrot Moshe, Y”D 1:233). Rabbi Asher Weiss disagrees and maintains that the mitzvah as described by the sages is specifically “visiting” the sick, and although through a phone call one is fulfilling the mitzvah of kindness, one is not fulfilling bikur cholim (Minchat Asher, Genesis 20:4).

Joke of the Week

Q: What’s the difference between a Rottweiler and a Jewish mother?
A: Eventually, the Rottweiler lets go.


God visited Avraham on the plains of Mamre. Mamre, a local dignitary, advised Avraham to circumcise himself and therefore he merited that God should reveal Himself in his land. Why did Avraham consult someone as to whether or not to perform this mitzvah? Although Avraham was resolute in what he would do, nonetheless he wanted to include others in the decision in order to give them a portion of the mitzvah that he intended to fulfill.